by Natasha Neill, Qualification & Skills Officer at the Society of Biology
The past few months for universities all across the UK must have involved hours with reams of data from past students, as everyone counts down the days till the 31st October. By then all universities in the UK will make their Key Information Set (KIS) available via their websites. Students looking at prospective courses online will see all sorts of information on their potential course from previous students, including what they thought and what they’re now earning.
Providing students with more information can only help them to make more informed choices, but is it easy to understand what the figures actually mean?
Rather than make observations on all the data, I only picked three similar life science courses at three different UK universities, found in roughly the top, middle and bottom of the top 100 Times Higher Education World University Rankings. I then looked at their Unistats entries (the website that holds all the information) and was surprised at what I found out:
- The highest satisfaction for the quality of the course and student union came from the HEI with the lowest world ranking
- The cheapest annual accommodation was found in the highest ranked course
- Unemployment rates and the percentage of graduates going to further work or study varied by only 2% across all three HEIs
- The lowest score for how interesting staff made the subject and how good at explaining things staff were came from the highest ranked course
- Average salaries six months after graduation varied from by only £2000 (£16k – £18k) and again after forty months (£22k – £24k).
Many of the figures were also marked as being ‘bulked’ up by a similar course due to low numbers of student data, meaning even these confusing findings should be taken with a pinch of salt. Students might not have an easy job of deciphering these figures, and for a lot of students, will these figures even be taken into consideration when they are choosing their course?
Our Society of Biology Student Study from September 2011 found that the main factors for students in choosing their course were university reputation, course location and course content. With the recent changes to the Higher Education landscape, it will be interesting to see how savvy students become and how the influencing factors in making their choices might change.
Degree Accreditation by the Society of Biology is included in the KIS, so courses that gain accreditation will highlight this on their website. To make sure that students are clear on what accreditation means, and equally importantly, what its absences might signify, we’ll be communicating to all schools, making sure students have all the information they need to make their choices.
From those that work in, have gone to, or are considering university we would love to hear your thoughts and advice for others via the comments below.
What would, or did, most influence your choice in choosing your university?
If you work in Higher Education, what information would you advise students to look into before making their choice?